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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Andrew Feinberg

Trump asked two different cabinet members to become attorney general and fire Robert Mueller, book reveals


Former president Donald Trump was so intent on firing the Department of Justice special counsel charged with investigating his 2016 campaign’s potential ties with Russia that he offered the job of attorney general to two members of his cabinet on condition that they would carrying out his wish.

In their upcoming book The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021, authors Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report how Mr Trump responded to then-White House counsel Don McGahn’s refusal to order the firing of ex-FBI Director Robert Mueller by asking members of his cabinet to relieve then-attorney general Jeff Sessions and promptly sack the widely-respected ex-prosecutor.

Mr Mueller’s appointment as a special counsel came just days after the then-president fired Mr Mueller’s FBI successor, James Comey. Because Mr Sessions had recused himself from the Russia probe, it was then-deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein who appointed the ex-FBI director to lead the controversial investigation.

According to Baker and Glasser, Mr Trump’s first attempt to replace Mr Sessions came during a trip on Air Force One in late 2017.

The then-president reportedly asked White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to summon Alex Acosta, the former assistant attorney general turned labour secretary, to his cabin.

Mr Porter followed his instructions and told Mr Acosta that Mr Trump was “likely to sound him out on helping oust [Mr] Sessions and becoming attorney general himself” with the expectation that he would fire Mr Mueller.

Mr Acosta declined to accept the offer.

Undeterred, Mr Trump reportedly asked Mr Porter to call then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt — a former Oklahoma attorney general — to “take his temperature about replacing [Mr] Sessions”.

Mr Porter, a Harvard-educated attorney who also earned a MPhil from New College, Oxford, declined to make the call out of fear that it could expose him to criminal charges for interfering in the Russia probe. But Mr Trump later contacted Mr Pruitt himself and told him Mr Porter would be calling, then castigated the White House aide for not following through before.

Baker and Glasser report that Mr Pruitt was “more amenable” to carrying out Mr Trump’s wish than Mr Acosta had been and “raised no concerns about participating in a plot to get rid of an attorney general and seize hold himself of the politically fraught investigation of the president”.

The authors later note that Mr Trump never carried out his plan because advisers warned him that doing so would make matters worse.

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